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Thursday, 21 May 2015

Bin Laden and the Balmy Typewriter-Banning Bishop

Within 24 hours of me posting about the archaic Archbishop of Canterbury Geoffrey Fisher and his 1955 bid to ban typewriters, the US Government revealed that Osama bin Laden was studying Fisher in his hideout in Pakistan when US Navy Seals raided the compound in May 2011.
The loopy Fisher, right
My post on the crazy British cleric came four years too late to be of any use to bin Laden, of course. Nonetheless, it might help to explain to the mystified US Office of the Director of National Intelligence, at least in part, why the al-Qaeda leader would have kept profiles of Church of England bishops at his compound. The commandos found a document entitled "Profiles of the bishops in the Church of England" among a stack of English-language files amassed by bin Laden.
US authorities did not release the actual profiles of the bishops bin Laden was interested in, and simply listed the document among 10 other religious files the seals found. Given bin Laden earnestly plotted to send the world back to the Dark Ages, however, it might well be assumed he would have agreed with Fisher's antiquated ideas.
These included:
. Typewriters could cause wars.
. Sunday afternoon drivers were the Britain's greatest enemies.
. At worst the H-Bomb would send a whole bunch of innocent people on their way to another world.
. Although all men were equal within the love of God, they were not equal within the sight God.
. If you weren't a Christian or a Communist you were an amiable nonentity.
. Arguing about capital punishment was very unfair to anyone thinking about murdering someone.
. Authors had succumbed to the last infirmity of a mundane mind.
And yes, Nick Bodemer, he was being serious ...

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Make Typewriters, Not War

Ban Barmy Bishops, Not Typewriters
The typewriter peace sign
Was this Blighty’s Biggest Buffoon?
-class clown, Archbishop Fisher
Pius XII in 1949
While Pope Pius XII typed on the pontiff's Olivetti Studio 42 portable in the Vatican City, at Lambeth Palace in London a goofball Archbishop of Canterbury pointlessly pontificated – on typewriters, the H-Bomb, Catholics, Communism, divorce, Sunday afternoon jaunts in the country and wide American roads.
And in each case, that archbishop, a feebleminded fool called Geoffrey Francis Fisher, made a complete and utter idiot of himself.
Of typewriters, this ignoramus told the British Council of Churches in March 1955 “the dangers of a world war would be reduced if typewriters are abolished”.
Yes, Typospherians, that's right – throw away your typewriters now, or risk the threat you pose to world peace!
According to a page one story in The Canberra Times on March 19, 1955, Fisher Gump went on, “If typewriters were abolished tomorrow, there is a general feeling that a great mass a vapid thought, which goes on between human beings, would be vastly reduced and the danger of war would be vastly deceased.
“Everybody is so busy talking about things and circulating memoranda and having meetings, that a great deal of truth is lost at the bottom of the well.”
The real truth here is that this blockhead bishop was as nutty as a fruitcake and completely lost at the bottom of the well of intellect.
Dolt of the Year
In case one is wondering - yes, this blunderer really was being serious, and yes he was living in the 20th century - right in the middle of it, no less. But thinking? No way, Jose …
The world has moved ahead, even if ever so slightly, in the past 60 years. What one of the world’s two most influential religious leaders could get away with in 1955 nobody would be so stupid as to think they could say today.
Utica Daily Press, March 18, 1955
According to the novelist Roald Dahl, Geoffrey Fisher was a sanctimonious hypocrite who took far greater pleasure from beating to a bloody pulp the naked backsides of Repton schoolboys than he ever did from gently tapping the keys of a typewriter. Dahl remained adamant about the joys Fisher got from smoking a pipe while flogging a bare adolescent bum.
Australian newspaper headline
Fisher Gump was the duffer who, after being a headmaster at Repton, became the Archbishop of Canterbury – and thus the symbolic head of the worldwide Anglican Communion – from 1945 to 1961. In those 16 years, this klutz cleric’s proudly and openly expressed opinions probably did more harm to the Church of England than any other single person had done since Bloody Queen Mary in the mid-16th Century.
Fisher was a slow-witted, thick-skinned dunderhead who in one year alone – 1955 - expressed some of the most extraordinarily reactionary, bigotted and insensitive statements ever uttered by a church leader in the 500 years of Protestantism. More than any other Archbishop of Canterbury before or since, this bonehead exemplified the man who - while whatever passed for a brain inside his moronic head remained strictly in neutral - opened his mouth and put his slippered foot fairly and squarely in it. This act became, for Fisher, truly an art form.
Where's me blessed glasses?
Fisher's statements in 1955 alone –
Archbishops were frequently maligned “and I don’t give two hoots”.
The hydrogen bomb: “At its very worst, all that it could do would be to sweep a vast number of persons at one moment from this world into the other and more vital world, into which, anyhow, they must all pass at some time.”
Wipe ' em out, bish ...
Communism: “Our statesmen and country must, under God, take every possible political step to to deliver us from the threat of Communism.”
Progress: “Mankind as a whole has bitten off more than it can chew, and instead of helping man forward, every invention and discovery really lands him in more of a mess.
Roman Catholics: “The greatest existing hindrance to the advance of the Kingdom of God among men”.
Divorce: “The Church of England will not tolerate divorce under any circumstances.” Britain’s divorce rate was as “beastly as the Mau Mau”. (He said that in Kenya!)
Support for Princess Margaret to marry Peter Townsend: “A popular wave of stupid emotionalism”.
People who go on Sunday afternoon drives in the countryside: “The greatest enemies to Britain.”
The real enemy
Commercial TV: Freedoms extended the press (“for good or evil) are out of the question for television.”
Newspapers: Offer “journalistic exploitations of sex”.
Race: “Although all men are equal within the love of God, they are not equal within the sight God.” “The colour bar is not the sort of thing we should get excited about or fanatical over.
United States roads: “I would much rather have our [British] roads, where at least we only kill each other one by one.
Very funny, Fish ...
Frankly, even now, I find these Fisherisms offensive in the extreme, and not in the least bit amusing.
Here are a few from other years to be going on with:
"The long and distressing controversy over capital punishment is very unfair to anyone meditating murder."
"Who knows whether in retirement I shall be tempted to the last infirmity of mundane minds, which is to write a book."
"I have asked myself once or twice lately what was my natural bent. I have no doubt at all: It is to look at each day for the evil of that day and have a go at it, and that is why I have never failed to have an acute interest in each morning's letters."
"There are only two kinds of people in the modern world who know what they are after. One, quite frankly, is the Communist. The other, equally frankly, is the convinced Christian. The rest of the world are amiable nonentities."

Sunday, 17 May 2015

The Blickensderfer 5 Super Typewriter and the Arab Super Sports car

Imagine owning both of these? Better still, imagine being able to not just own and admire both of them, but to type with a Blickensderfer 5 and drive an Arab Super Sports car? Antony Brian Demaus was able to do both because he was still using his Blick 5 into the 1980s, and because he had fully restored his Arab.
On March 1, 2011, I posted on an exchange of letters which had appeared in the British magazine Motor Sport in August and September 1961 - not, as one might expect, regarding vintage sports cars still in use, but vintage typewriters still being used. This flurry of correspondence had been sparked by the passing mention of a 1893 typewriter which remained in good working order.
Little did I know at the time of posting about these 1961 letters that the 1893 typewriter was a Blick 5 owned by vintage sports car expert Brian Demaus. Or that Demaus had continued to use his Blick 5 for at least another 20 years.
Last Friday I was digging through the Australian National Library's Trove collection of digitised newspapers, looking for typewriter-related stories from The Canberra Times from 1932-72 with which to print on transfer paper and decorate an Olympia SM9 (previous post).
Lo and behold, to my considerable surprise, I came across this image from The Canberra Times of June 9, 1980:
It turns out The Canberra Times had been holding on to this photo for a very long time, because the image was taken in February 1975 and The Ottawa Journal had covered the accompanying story (without the photo) on its page 2 on April 7, 1975:
When Demaus won this competition, he was a science teacher at St Michael's College, Tenbury Wells, an independent international boarding school in Worcestershire, England.
Brian Demaus teaching science at St Michael's College.
But his CV extended away beyond teaching science. Born on Boxing Day 1923, he had served in the Royal Navy toward the end of World War II and was a much-published author on subjects ranging from naval to motoring history. Last heard from, he was living at Stagbatch Farm, Leominster, in the Welsh Borders, an area he had known for more than 80 years, since 1932.
Demaus's 1926-27 Arab 2.0-litre low chassis Super Sports car was auctioned by Bonhams at Weybridge in December 2011 and was expected to fetch between $200,000 and $240,000. Bonhams rated it one of the world’s rarest cars, and said it was one of only two known survivors of the first low chassis Arab (there were no surviving high chassis Arabs). It was designed by Reid Antony Railton (1895-1977), who called the car Arab in the belief it shared the characteristics of an Arab portrayed in T.E. Lawrence’s The Seven Pillars of Wisdom (1922) - a proud, honourable and fearless warrior. The year Lawrence's book came out, Arab Motors was founded by Railton, with two members of the Spurrier family, in Letchworth, Hertfordshire, following his departure from Leyland Motors, where he had assisted the company's chief engineer, J.G. Parry-Thomas, on the design of the Leyland Eight luxury car. Letchworth Garden City was laid out as a demonstration of the principles established by typewriter inventor Ebenezer Howard. As one of the world's first new towns and the first garden city, it inspired other projects around the world, including Canberra.
During his ownership of this model, Demaus restored the Arab to its original specification of 1929, retaining Thomson & Taylor’s original coachwork and rebuilding the engine and gearbox. It was originally completed with engine number EA 12 but in 1936 was fitted with EA 20 from one of Railton's earlier racers, the Spurrier Railton. 
Returning to the 1961 editions of Motor Sports, reference to Demaus's Blick 5 first brought a response from a reader who “regularly uses an 1896 Remington Standard No 7, which has cost only 9 shillings for replacements in 13 months, these being a new ribbon and a new fabric band connecting the spring to the carriage”. “All the keys produce letters and all the mechanics work as they are meant to … I certainly would not part with it for any modern machine; I consider the £5 it cost well spent.”
The following month, similar claims were made about five other typewriters. F.B. Humphrey of Ipswich wrote in praise of his Oliver No 9, “bought for £1 twelve years ago. It was made in 1913 … The conclusion is that vintage machinery is completely practical and reliable and far more economical to ‘run’ than present-day tinware.” James B. Nadwell of Dumfries in Scotland was still using a 1919 vintage “Corona Folding Portable which I purchased for 60 shillings”. It had originally been sold by Dodge & Seymour (China) Ltd. “I consider my expenditure on the 692 parts which make up this machine a very good investment.” R. Michael Dawe of Highgate, London, was using a Blickensderfer No 7. “The mechanics of this machine are a joy to behold – and all for 2 shillings 6 pence at a jumble sale. It has not been used much so would you advise raising the compression-ratio and fitting Webers; this should improve performance, because having a repertoire of 84 symbols it takes rather a time to isolate the one desired!” Thirteen-year-old Peter Marx of Ferndown was writing on an Empire portable with a patent date of March 29, 1892. “It has given me reliable service for a year, since purchased at an auction, together with a carpet sweeper, for the princely sum of 10 shillings.” Finally, H.N. Holden of Bath wrote about a Remington Standard No 2 bought at auction by his father for 10 shillings. “The key-bed is in the form of a well and the rods connecting the keys to the letters are made of wood for part of the way, followed by metal wires about as thick as bicycle-wheel spokes …” 
Below, the image of Brian Demaus as it appeared in The Canberra Times in 1980:

Saturday, 16 May 2015

The Newspaperman's Ideal Typewriter: The Olympia SM9

All of these typewriter-related newspaper clippings are from The Canberra Times, 1932-1972. I'm afraid these photos aren't really doing it justice.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

'Typewriter Spotting' on the 'Canberra Typewriter Tour'

Given Canberra was once the typewriter capital of the Southern Hemisphere, that there are so few typewriters to be seen at its various national institutions is a disgrace. Friends keep telling me, "There's a typewriter here" or "There's a typewriter there", and from time to time I check out what's been added to exhibits. But it's generally a disappointment. Last week's catch-up tour of the city was no exception.
At the National Museum's "Home Front" exhibition, this was the one measly offering:
Someone texted me and suggested I should see the Smith-Corona at the National Library. Imagine my let-down when this is what I found:
If this is the best our National Library has to offer, representing the machine which probably produced more than 85 per cent of the works in the library, then we are in a bad way.
Needing a bit of uplifting, I made my way across the road to Old Parliament House.
Other than typewriters, one thing I always show visitors when I give them the "Typewriter Tour of Canberra" is this door at Old Parliament House. I've been visiting and writing about Old Parliament House for more than 15 years, yet no one has yet been able to tell me why "Nepal Inquiries" is on the door of room M104. I hasten to add it has nothing to do with the devastation visited on Nepal in the past few weeks. It's been there a very long time.  And it remains a mystery.
Old Parliament House is invariably the high point of the "Typewriter Tour of Canberra" and occasionally there are additions to the Prime Minister's Suite or Press Gallery. But I was annoyed to see this Olivetti Lexikon 80 the way it is, with the carriage jammed to the far left. I tried to lean over the restraining rope to straighten the carriage up, but to no avail.
This is an Australian Associated Press cast-off - an Adler perhaps?
The PM's Suite is also good fun for "typewriter spotting" and has had an influx of IMB Selectrics from somewhere:
 Is that a little Silver-Seiko hiding up there in the corner?
The original Australian House of Representatives mace is still in Old Parliament House, and it's a fine piece of work:
Finally, upstairs to the Press Gallery exhibition, which I can never resist:
And there is always, of course, Charles Bean's Corona 3 at the War Memorial:

1¾ Million

This blog reached 1¾ million pages just now. It's been averaging more than 1700 views a day for the last two years and more than one page view a minute every day for almost three years. The counter reached 250,000 on September 30, 2012, half a million on May 6, 2013, three-quarters of a million on November 30, 2013, one million on March 25 last year and 1.5 million on December 26. My Google+ page says 32.3 million views, but I have no idea what that means - simple spam fodder I assume. What I do know is that the interest in typewriters is still out there, though what I've been posting has been pretty trivial stuff. I'm hoping to encourage Christopher Long in Normandy, Richard Amery in Sydney and Michael Klein in Melbourne to join the Typosphere in the coming months, and look forward to a more serious approach from them than I've been able to muster on the subject of typewriting in the 21st century. Meanwhile, I'm thinking of starting a new blog, on sports history. Not that I expect the sporting waters to be any less shark (or spam) infested!